22 September 2013 Sunday – Caserta
Today the three of us packed up our luggage for our next adventure. We lugged them up the hill to the “Pompeii Scavi” (“ruins”) train station, and boarded our train for Naples. When we got to Naples we had to figure out how to catch our train to the city of Caserta. Kathy had purchased online train tickets from Caserta to Rome, but we had no passage from Naples to Caserta. It took us a while to get that figured out and soon we boarded our next train.
I had arranged to meet with Ali Wylie at Caserta, because she and her family live not far from there. Ali is a friend of mine from the Internet. She's the author of the book, “Astral Dancer” which is about out-of-body experiences, like my first two books. She also ran an Internet magazine related to the subject, and we had corresponded about OBEs in the past. Although she's British, she and her family live in Italy, not too far from Caserta. Since we were going to Caserta anyway, I had contacted her and asked if we could get together for lunch or something. I had originally suggested meeting in Naples, but she didn't like that idea at all.
When we got to the town of Caserta, we got off the train and tried to figure out where we could store our luggage for the day. Unfortunately, contrary to what our travel book (Rick Steve's Italy) says, the train station had no place to store our luggage, so we were forced to drag it down the street and into the palace. It was a long distance, and quite a bother.
Luckily, the palace was happy to store our luggage, and we were glad to get rid of it.
Then we toured the palace. It was apparently modeled after the palace of Versailles in France. I could believe it because it was definitely over the top with luxury. We took lots of photos, but photos were not allowed in some places.
We got done with our tour of the mansion at 12:30 or so, and we were supposed to meet with Ali at 1:30. So Karen, Kathy and I hopped on a palace bus to visit the gardens and its huge fountain. The view of the palace and courtyard were fabulous.
When we got to the top, I decided to go back to find Ali and her family and bring them back to the fountain. When I got there, Ali was waiting and we stood and talked for a long time. She had brought us all a fantastic lunch, but it was much too big to transport to the fountain. Instead, we sent a text message to Kathy, asking her and Karen to take the bus back to the mansion.
Time passed. Ali and I chatted about many things while we waited for Kathy and Karen, but they didn't come. I waited for two buses to come and go, and still they did not come. Finally, I decided they must be out of cell phone range, so I got back on the bus to find them. Unfortunately, when I got back to the fountain, there was no sign of Kathy, or Karen. It was Kathy's famous disappearing act again.
Disgusted, and very hungry, I got back on the bus and rode it back to the mansion (a half-hour trip). There I found not only Ali, her husband and daughter (Francesca) and her family, I also found Kathy and Karen eating lunch with them! Nnnnggah!
So I joined them for lunch, and it was wonderful. It was way more food than I ever expected. Ali said it was scaled way down from a typical Italian picnic!
Kathy told me the story about how she and Karen had walked to a special grotto, out of cell phone range. When they got back into range, they got Ali's text message and got on a bus back to the mansion.
Suddenly we looked at our watches and realized it was getting late, and we'd have to hurry to catch our train to Rome. Since Kathy had paid for a specific train and a specific time, we had to leave. We quickly exchanged books, took photos and said our goodbyes. It's too bad we didn't have time to visit with them longer.
We hobbled to the front of the palace to collect our luggage. Unfortunately, they wouldn't let us exit from the front, so we hobbled to the back of the palace again, luggage in tow. We hobbled across the plaza and down the streets of Caserta, half running, towing our luggage behind us. We got to the train station with barely enough time to spare.
We knew we were in Coach #9, the last car. So we walked down to the end of the platform and waited for the train. To our horror, the train pulled up from the opposite direction, which meant we were at the wrong end! Once again, we did our best to run down the platform, towing our luggage. Finally, when it seemed like the train would wait no longer, we got on the nearest coach. Then we dragged our luggage through the narrow aisles, disrupting all the passengers along the way. We were at the beginning of car #8, and our assigned seats were in the middle of car #9. That meant we had to pull our luggage through the entirety of car #8 and half of car #9, disrupting all the other passengers, just to take our seats. By this time, the train was already moving, so we had that added complication as well.
When we got to our seats, we were dismayed to find they were already occupied by Italians! We had purchased seats for Mitzie and Skip, but their seats were occupied too. We dug through the luggage until we found our travel voucher, then proved to the people that they were sitting in our seats. They shuffled places, leaving us three places to sit, but our luggage had to sit in the middle of the aisle; there was no other place for it.
Having finally taken our seats, we sat back for a nice relaxing ride to Rome, all the time worrying about Mitzie and Skip, who were supposed to arrive today.
Pretty soon, I was startled by an abrupt shuffling under my feet. It seemed that the Italians who were occupying our seats had brought their small, white poodle-looking dog, and it decided to make an appearance! Between the dog, the luggage and the people, there was no room for my feet, and people had a tough time getting past us on the train.
Eventually we got to the Rome train station, got off the train and went outside. Our next task was to find our way to the hotel and hope Mitzie and Skip were there. Kathy had planned to take a tram, which runs right by the hotel, so we purchased our tram tickets and went outside to wait.
As we got to the tram stop, a tram pulled away, carrying hundreds of people: it was crowded. There was no room for our luggage anyway, so we decided to wait for the next one. We were told that they run quite often.
Well, we wait and we waited, and we waited, and no tram came. Instead, people came. First there were fifty, then a hundred, then a hundred and fifty, but still no tram. Eventually, after waiting more than a half-hour, we decided this tram would be impossibly full, just like the last one. No room for us, nor our luggage. We got frustrated and decided to hail a taxi.
We saw a nearby taxi stand at the train station, so we walked back there. We asked a taxi driver how much it would cost to take us to the hotel, which was about one mile away. He said 41 Euros! We were outraged and left him in a huff. When we got to the taxi stand, we got on a regular taxi. He only charged us 8.50 Euros, plus the expected 2 euro baggage charge. Much better.
We arrived at the hotel, and guess what? Mitzie and Skip weren't there. So we waited, and we waited and we waited. Meanwhile, the hotel halls were crammed full of school-age children on some trip.
We decided to ask the front desk for Gianni (pronounced “Johnny”), the guy whose apartment we're renting in Rome. They told us he wasn't in at the moment, and wouldn't be arriving for several hours.
I tried calling my friend Fabio's dad, Massimo, and got a generic message (in Italian) saying the party was not available. We were striking out on all levels.
Much to our relief, after waiting about 45 minutes, Skip came walking through the hotel lobby and found us. She and Mitzie had gotten to Rome safely and had found the hotel without incident. He had already contacted Gianni, gotten the apartment keys, and had checked in. (I know it's confusing, but Gianni works at that hotel, but we weren't staying at the hotel; we had arranged to rent Gianni's spare apartment.)
We went to the apartment, happy to be reunited with Mitzie and Skip. Then we all went out to dinner, then back to the apartment and went to bed. Of course, I stayed up, writing this account!